EU Plays Robin Hood, Takes From Polluters, Gives To Clean Energy

Its takes from the polluters and gives to the clean-energy innovators – that’s the European Union’s NER300 program, and this week nearly two dozen ground-breaking projects across a wide range of technologies were awarded a total of €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion).

“The NER300 programme is in effect a ‘Robin Hood’ mechanism that makes polluters pay for large-scale demonstration of new low-carbon technologies,” EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in a statement. The funds for the program were raised from the sale of 200 million allowances from what is called the “new entrants’ reserve” of the EU Emissions Trading System between early December 2011 and early October 2012.

Blaiken Vin

EU-backed wind farm near Arctic Circle in Sweden (image via Blaiken Vind)

The 23 projects funded broke down into six broad categories: bioenergy (8), wind (6), concentrated solar (4), ocean (3), smart grids (1) and geothermal (1).

The funding from the EU is doled out piecemeal, on an annual basis, and continues only if a project is making progress toward its goal. Projects are to go into operation between 2013 and 2016, with two-thirds of projects expected to be operational before the end of 2015.

Among the projects funded was WindFloat, which has Principle Power of Seattle as a key player, as developer of a floating wind turbine. Principle was in the news recently in the U.S. when it received $4 million from the Department of Energy to pursue design and planning work on a similar demonstration project off the Oregon coast. The EU-backed project is set for Portuguese waters, and it received €30 million.

Another fascinating wind project: Sweden’s Vindpark Blaiken, a 225-megawatt wind farm just below the Arctic Circle at 65 degrees north latitude. The location was apparently chosen for its good wind conditions and proximity to extensive transmission hydroelectric power plant nearvy. The innovative part of the project, according to NER300, is the de-icing system made up of heating elements in the leading blade edges. Thirty of 90 turbines are already in and are expected to be producing power by spring next year.

The biggest single award went to the Dutch biomass project “Woodspirit.” According to NER300, “Wood chips will be the feedstock for producing 516m litres/year of bio-methanol, equivalent to 413,000 t/y, in Farmsum. The bio-methanol will be produced using biomass torrefaction and entrained flow gasification as new core technologies to deliver a petrol additive for partial replacement of mineral fuel.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.